Last week I shared a vlog about parent anxiety. If you missed it then feel free to check it out below. Since I published it, I have been overwhelmed by how many people have contacted me to say that they too struggle. Yet, somehow the whole anxiety label still feels taboo. Why?
The problem is that there are a lot of people out there who still don’t get it. Their brains are wired differently, so they don’t understand. Keep calm and carry on is their default. Perhaps they see anxiety as a sign of weakness. Perhaps they think it’s just all a bit silly and self indulgent. Perhaps they often tell people struggling to get a grip. Probably the worst words to say to an anxious person. These people need to be pinched really hard in the cheek. I know because I was once one of them. I wanted to give people a shake and tell them to pull themselves together and go out and enjoy this precious life. Then I partied a little bit too hard in 2007, whilst living in New Zealand and doing every adventure sport possible, and had my first ever panic attack. It was a serious wake up call.
If you struggle with anxiety then read the sentence below slowly:
NEVER let anyone make you feel weak. Surround yourself with people who help to lift you up. People who encourage you. People who listen and hear you out, even if they are wired a different way.
Anxiety is a topic that we need to be able to discuss honestly and openly.
We all experience feelings of anxiety. The real problem results when these feelings of worry or dread start to become constant and hold us back from getting out there and enjoying life. Ironically for me they started when I was enjoying life far too much. I lost my balance. I have written in the past about the danger of too much alcohol, caffeine and sugar and how these can contribute towards panic attacks. I had been partying way too hard and I burnt myself out. I underestimated the damage I was doing to my mind.
I have not had a panic attack in a long time but anxiety is something that remains with me and can creep up to give me a big slap in the face.
Parent anxiety is now a firm part of my life and it concerns things I have no control of. I really struggle with the thought of putting the kids in danger. Isn’t it funny how in life we often tell our kids to be careful when we leave them? If I am going away I smother them in kisses and tell them to be take care. Imagine one day I shouted out:
“Right kids, go out and take risks today – smash those comfort zones”.
I so often want to wrap them up in the fluffiest cotton wool. After listening to the news, I just want to cosy them up under a furry blanket and keep them at home. That wouldn’t be very fair though. I need to let them go out and experience the big wide world. Also, they would start to do my head in after a few hours. Man they are noisy.
I am prone to feeling a bit freaked out when flying and like a stiff drink to chill me out. My Dad was exactly the same which shows me that my brain is wired like his.
Hearing about terrorism on the news sends shivers down my spine. As a result I avoid taking the kids to places with large crowds. I can never fully relax when we are on the beach and am constantly looking around for suspicious people. I remember being on a stunning beach in Spain last year. We were building sandcastles and loving life but on the sly I was watching for angry looking people with guns.
I am terrified of motorway driving because there are a lot of bad drivers out there. I have still not got over a terrible car accident we had in Cyprus in 2013. I will never forget the screams from Bonnie, who was 1 at the time. A lady in her 70’s who had been drinking came flying out at a give way sign and we had absolutely no control over the situation. I kept thinking what if?! It just so happened I was sitting in the back holding Bonnie’s hand. What if I had been in the passenger seat where the worst impact hit. Even worse, what if Bonnie had been there. These days I constantly worry about my precious babes in the back of the car.
Each time I drive past a car at a give way sign my stomach flips over. What if they keep coming out? Should I slow down just in case?
Then there is the anxiety that comes with dogs I don’t know off leashes running towards us at a high speed. I used to be that kid that always looked after peoples dogs. I begged my parents to let us get one. Then one day I had a bad experience with a dog. It stuck with me. So when I am out running or walking with the kids, a dog I don’t know running up to me will spoil my whole experience. The news is full of stories about violent dogs.
I compare it to people. The majority of people are lovely, but there are some bad ones. As a result I would never leave my kids alone in a park. The bad dogs also spoil it for the good ones.
I understand that these irrational thoughts have the power to hold me back. I want to live in the moment and not worry about what could happen. I love our family holidays and often I need to accept that this will involve flying or motorway driving. I love going out along Cramond but we often go to the botanics where there are no dogs running all over the place.
I want to get out and enjoy life. Then one day I want my kids to travel all over the world like I did. Even if the thought of it scares me. I want them to live. I want them to take risks and get out and experience our beautiful big world.
So how can we learn to live with anxiety? Or how can we learn to be more sympathetic towards anxious people if it is not something we struggle with?
Don’t take things personally
We are all different and our brains work a different way. Don’t take it personally and try and see things from the other side. Some example’s below:
If someone doesn’t reply to your email – it’s highly likely it’s not about you. They are just very busy and a bit frazzled.
If someone is driving slowly on the motorway DO NOT ram up their ass. The chances are they want to go steady at 50 where possible in the left hand lane. They probably have a bit of anxiety due to being in a serious car crash. If they have kids in the back – even worse. Go easy on them. Likewise, if someone is ramming up your ass – perhaps someone is dying and they are desperate to get to them. Let them bash on and overtake you without giving them the middle finger.
Dog walkers – do not get annoyed if someone looks scared rather than overjoyed to see your dog running towards them. It is not about your dog. It is a fear, most likely from a bad experience. Your dog isn’t ugly – they are just too scared to see the beauty.
If someone is at an event or party and they are very quiet don’t take it personally. It doesn’t mean that your chat sucks. Being in crowds may make them feel nervous. Perhaps things are going on at home that are really getting to them.
Living in the moment
Take some time to just stop and breathe and take in your surroundings. Try yoga classes, my personal favourite is body balance. It can be easy to feel dragged down by worrying about the future. Just stop and tell yourself that whatever the future holds you will cope.
Our little people are making their own stories day by day and we have little control over where their paths will go. We just need to raise them to be kind, good people and hope they make the right choices.
Spend time with people who build you up and help you to feel normal. Try and see the positives and focus on all the things you are thankful for. Even on the days you are struggling, write a list of things you are thankful for.
Talk about your feelings. It’s ok not to be ok. If you are really struggling see your GP to discuss this further.
I take regular exercise as it clears my mind and keeps me feeling grounded. As they often say – exercise is the most underused form on anti depressant. I love the natural buzz I get after exercise.
Go for regular massages and enjoy using essential oils at home to sooth and bring calm.
Read motivational books and try and put things into perspective.
Always remember, you are not alone.